Today should see the 2015 -7 Parliament prorogued before it is finally dissolved next week. There will be business as usual to start the day with Questions to the Department for exiting the European Union. Quite appropriate as this issue will dominate the forthcoming election campaign. As soon as that is done I will be continuing to today and complete all the dozens of jobs I need to do before heading back to Bury.
Today the main focus will inevitably be on the final clash at Prime Minister Questions between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. I expect it will be noisy and partisan. The Speaker will be busy keeping order. The session will highlight the choice at this election between the strong and stable leadership of Theresa May and the what would inevitably be a chaotic Coalition under Jeremy Corbyn.
After PMQ’s the Commons will consider the amendments the House of Lords have made to the Digital Economy Bill the Criminal Finances Bill and the Higher Education and Research Bill as the government try and get three more Bills onto the statute book before the end of the Parliament.
Well, that was a surprise yesterday! I certainly was not expecting the PM to announce a general election. I was on the train down dealing with my usual mountain of emails when Lucy Powell the MP for Manchester Central tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I has seen the rumours on Twitter that there was to an early election. I had not. Within minutes it was confirmed. We are all back fighting a general election two years after the last one. As readers can imagine there is much to do. MUCH to do! If I am re-selected by the Bury North Conservatives to contest the general election this will be the sixth general election I have fought. Ususally I have been well prepared with literature written and campaign plans all in place. I now have to get to that position as quickly as possible. I am going to try and update my website as I usually do but from today I will not be undertaking to update it every single day. During election campaigns once we get into the main campaign period every day is pretty much the same. Get up, campaign, go to bed – repeat the next day.
Here in Parliament the Backbench Business Committee had a very short Committee meeting yesterday. We met only in private as there were no MP’s bidding for time. Just as well as we already have a backlog of debates we have approved and are awaiting time to allocate them. Now we know this Parliament is to be brought to an end quite probably as early as next week it is doubtful there will be anymore time.
Today, the big vote will be the vote on whether to actually have an early election. Under the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 two thirds of MP’s have to vote for an election to end the five year term early. In the past the Prime Minister could have just gone to the Queen and seek a dissolution. The 2011 Act is a nonsense and should be repealed. I opposed it at the time if I can recall correctly. As I suspect today will prove how can any opposition party realistically oppose a motion to hold a general election! They would effectively be saying “no thanks we don’t want the chance to take over you are doing a a great job in government please continue! ” So I expect the motion will be passed today with the requisite majority indeed I am not even sure anyone will vote against the motion. Incidentally, the motion is now available on the order paper. It is a very short 9 words motion standing purely in the name of The Prime Minister ‘That there shall be an early parliamentary general election.’
The House of Commons returns to business today and I am heading back to London. Although a Tuesday we are sitting for Monday hours with a 2.30pm start and I anticipate a late finish. Business starts with questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I expect there will be at least a Statement from the Foreign Secretary to update the House on events in Syria and North Korea. I have a meeting of the Backbench Business Committee scheduled at 4pm so, depending on whether there is any other business such as Urgent Questions granted by the Speaker I will probably miss the Foreign Secretary’s statement. The main business will be the Second Reading of the Finance Bill arising from the Spring Budget.
After the historic triggering of Article 50 yesterday today sees the publication of the White Paper which is being published ahead of what is being referred to as the Great Repeal Bill. The great repeal will be of the European Communities Act 1972 which gives precedence to European Union laws and was passed by Parliament ahead of our joining what was then the European Economic Community. Apart from that the Bill will really be the Great Continuity Bill as its other purpose will be to ensure existing laws continue to have effect on the day we leave the European Union.
Yesterday the Prime Minister did a marathon stint at the despatch box answering question for over three and a quarter hours. We later dealt with the business on the Pensions Schemes bill which we had to abandon last week when the terrorist attack occurred.
Yesterday after questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions the Bus Services Bill completed its final stages in the Commons. I chaired a delegated Legislation Committee which considered a new Statutory Instrument which will set targets for certain public sector bodies as to how many apprentices they should employ.
Today questions are to Boris Johnson the Foreign Secretary and then it is anticipated there will be a statement on the ongoing deadlock in the political situation in Northern Ireland. The House of Commons will then consider the amendments made by the House of Lords to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill followed by a debate on the situation in Yemen which was allocated by the Backbench Business Committee. Talking of which I will be attending a meeting of that this afternoon.
Proceedings in Parliament yesterday started with Prayers as usual and that was followed by a minutes silence to remember the victims of the terrorist attack on the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday. The Prime Minister then made a statement on the latest position which can be read here:
The Business Question followed and it was announced that the business that was being dealt with at the time of the attack will now be resumed next Wednesday.
Today Parliament is getting back to normal. The roads around Westminster were deserted yesterday as the police cordoned off the streets around Parliament. I had to access through the Chancellors Gate entrance at the House of Lords end of the Palace. This morning I was able once more to walk along in front of Parliament and enter my office block in the usual way. Sadly overnight news has emerged that the number of victims increased as another 75 year old man has died as a result of the injuries he sustained.
The main business in the Commons today is the consideration of Private Members Bills and there are, as usual at this stage of the Parliamentary year dozens on the list. The first is the Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Bill which seeks to widen the category of people able to inspect the accounts of local Councils and a whole host of other public bodies.